Tips for sewing gimp


It’s the little things that can make or break a trailer. Handmade gimp is one of those special touches that can have a huge impact on the final look of your restoration.

Gimp welting is trim that goes between the wall and cabinets, or almost anywhere that 2 pieces join and are visible.

I wanted to keep this project as close to original as possible. Some people like to use wood trim. While this looks nice, it does not flex with the movement of the trailer, or prevent the squeaking from wood on wood contact.


I found fabric that was pretty close to the original., and purchased 5/32 welting cord (the standard size for gimp welting)

Cut your strips 1.25 inches wide. When cutting on the bias, you can get a bit over 25 yards of gimp per yard of fabric (out of 54 inch wide fabric). If cutting a straight cut, you can get 35 yards of gimp per yard of fabric.


NOTE: If you are using vinyl, there is no need to cut it on the bias. If using another type of fabric, I would recommend cutting it on the bias, as it helps the fabric bend around corners.

I went ahead and purchased a welting cord foot for my sewing machine. If you do not want to do this, you can use your zipper foot

Live and Learn Moment: When sewing with vinyl it sticks. It sticks to your foot. It sticks to your plate. It refuses to slide properly. Its a pain on the arse. I glued a piece of thin teflon sheet to my foot and plate to prevent this from happening. Using tissue paper (the normal way to prevent vinyl from sticking) does not make sense in this case and is very timing consuming.

Join your strips at an angle (Here is a great video on this ) as it reduces bulk.

Use a very long stitch length. There is no need to have a supertight stitch. This is temporarily holding the gimp together until it is stapled to the wood. (When these trailers were originally built they did not sew the fabric around the cording, the strips were wrapped around the cord as they stapled it on. ) Get as close to the cording as possible.

Just keep sewing…..just keep sewing ( in Miss Dory’s famous words). Keep going until you have the amount you need!

This is an undertaking not for the faint of heart or those who have a UFO (unfinished objects) basket as big as a bath tub.

Making your own gimp is easy with basic sewing skills.

Feeling Defeated


We started the process of stripping her down. We counted latches, hinges, etc. We knew these things were going to take some time to find.

Todd and I took photos of things that we would need to reference back to, once everything started to go back on..

Todd had started to rebuild the walls in place, after her rear was supported and level. He had to do this in place due to 2 factors.: The first one being that he did not have a shop floor to lay them out on, the second one was if he removed the walls, the ends were so rotten that they would fall apart. He needed them in place for a template. If the curve was not done right, he would have to start over….and that would be a lot of work.  This was definitely not his preferred way to do this, but when working on trailers, sometimes you make due.


The cabinets were kept in place as well. They are part of the support system for the walls. If they had been removed, the walls would not have been able to hold themselves up. So the cabinets stayed in place until the walls were built and ready to remove. She was beginning to look like a bomb had it hit her.

This process seemed to take forever. I think we had started to feel defeated. There was so much still to do, and we had not made it to the frame yet. Time was sparse, the Holidays were coming, and we had not made any progress (it seemed).

We made a promise to ourselves that the new year we would dedicate to the Airfloat.



Time Heals all

We had wrapped up the Airfloat for winter in September of 2016. She sat patiently waiting for her trip to the spa.

That winter was hard on us. sickness, death (my dad), flooding and numerous other things seemed to plague our family. It took us until early spring to start looking for a place to start her restoration . I put an add on a local bulletin board.  I was so excited when someone responded! She had a space we could rent. It was nothing more than a piece of land, but it would do! We purchased an event tent (the largest one we could find), and waited for the ground to dry out.

The rain receded and the day finally arrived when we could install the tent.  They say building a house is hard on a relationship….I think putting up a tent is worse.



They day we moved her in was momentous.  She was finally in a place we could start working on her.


We could not wait to dig in. We did an inspection of things we knew we needed to replace. She was complete (sans 2 lights), but things like hinges, and lights were going to need to be replaced due to rust or heat damage. We needed to know up front what to look for, as parts can be scarce.  Lists were made. Lots and lots of lists.

Then, we started the painstaking process of  meticulously tearing her apart. This process can be disheartening. Just keep reminding yourself that you have to go down to build up.


We labeled everything that came off of the trailer. On a smaller trailer, this is not as important. On a large trailer, it is a must. We wanted to save every part and piece possible. If we couldn’t use it, we needed it for reference at the very least.  I found Tyvek labels on Amazon.  The wires work well for tying on to parts.

TIP: Remember to measure everything before you take apart your trailer. Do not just go in with a sledge hammer and start demo! Measure twice. Keep a notebook. Even things you do not think you will need to measure. 1/4 inch can make a huge difference in the end product.



Once we started pulling the skin off, we  were baffled she had made it home in one piece.  We came to the  conclusion that she wanted to get here. Her front and rear ends fell apart as the skin was peeled back. On one hand, we were not surprised, and on the other we had hoped we had for a better pattern to go by which would make the restoration go smoother….but this was not meant to be. In some areas, we were actually taking it apart with a vacuum (yes, really!) All the trim was put on with screw nails. These things were the bane of our existence.    Vampliers to the rescue. These things are, seriously, a life saver!



In one of the cabinets, we found what we believe to be the original shipping label from the factory. She had made it full Circle, and was back in Sonoma County.


Airfloat Label


1950 Airfloat Rescue Part 2

Since we had several weeks until the trip to pick her up, Todd took this time to repack the bearings, etc. We also purchased new tires and rims for her trip back to Sonoma County

They started the weekend by getting her hubs back in, and the new tires and rims installed.


Lesson 1 in Trailer Trash Life: Always repack the bearings on a trailer that has been sitting for a length of time. Bearings that have dried up grease or *gasp* no grease at all can freeze up. To make this simpler…..the wheel stops moving or can heat up and start a fire. Really. This happens. The last thing you want on your newly found treasure is a 4-alarm trailer-que. Todd will even stop periodically and check to make sure the hubs are not hot on a newly acquired trailer. Women can do this too! If you own a trailer, learn to pack your bearings! There are a million YouTube videos out there that shows you how to repack bearings on a trailer. If requested, we can make one as well and post it. The internet is your tool!

Let’s get back to our story.

Due to the water damage in her rear, she had to be shored up from the inside to travel. We wanted to make sure she made it home in one piece. Todd, unfortunately, forgot to get a photo of this.

The Airfloat was brought in before they built the house. The house was built in front of the Airfloat, so the trailer had to go out backwards, over a ditch and through the woods. Trees and brush and to be cut down to get her out. It took a day to prep the route she had to leave by.


She had to be backed slowly out. It was a tight squeeze between 2 trees.

It took 2 and a half hours to back her out 200 feet. Todd took his time to limit any possible damage to her or the land. After 36 years she was free of her woodsy trappings.


She was pulled out with our Jeep Cherokee due to the tight spot she was in. The Jeep could fit without doing damage to the surrounding landscape and had better maneuverability while backing her out.



They left the next morning for the 7-hour trip home. They stopped at the closest town, only to me mobbed by several people, asking questions.


She practically pushed the tow vehicle home. The tow vehicle and our Jeep, however, had different ideas, but that is a story for another day.

She (somehow) made it to Sonoma County in one piece. I could not help but giggle every time I walked by my front door and saw this as I passed


She was registered and tucked away for the winter.


1950 Airfloat Rescue Part 1

In 2016 we had started looking for our next project. We had finished our 1963 HI-LO the year before. We wanted something different, and older than our last project. I was leaning towards a bread box style trailer, but we figured the right trailer would come along eventually. In August, a fellow trailer friend (enabler) sent me a message. She knew of a free trailer that was going to be posted on one of the groups. She gave me the woman’s name and sent me photos.


I quickly ran to my husband and showed him the photos. We knew it was a much larger undertaking than we had planned. We also knew, that if we passed it up it would be something we would regret. We quickly decided to at least go see it. The person who had posted the trailer, was not the owner. The owners lived off the grid on the far northern end of Humboldt County (near the California/Oregon border). We made an appointment with our contact to head up the following weekend and view the trailer.

We enlisted help (thanks Andy and Matty) and made the 7 hour trek the next weekend where we met Neil and Holly. They had purchased the trailer in 1980 with plans to move it to their property in Humboldt and live off the grid. They lived in it for 4 years with their young family while they built their house. Once they moved into the house, the trailer was demoted to guests and storage. They had been trying for years to try and find their trailer a home. He had thought he was going to have to cut it up and take it to the dump. As a last resort he mentioned the trailer to the local post master, who in turn said something to the person who had ended up listing it .

In 1980 when she was moved from Lodi to Humboldt County

I think we had both decided on the trip up we would take her no matter what condition she was in, if she was towable. We made a quick inspection and told them we would be back in the morning to start the process of prepping her for the trip back to Sonoma County. We had brush to clear, trees to cut, and bearings to pack before we could even think about moving it.

We returned the next day and started helping Neil clear away the detritus from her body. He had built a bath area on her street side and a storage porch on her curb side, the care he had taken, doing this year’s before was amazing. He never nailed or screwed anything to her precious skin, He started pulling out parts he had saved……thing like the round window he had removed (to vent the pot belly stove that was their heat source) and the original window inserts that would have been used when the trailer was stored. He even had the original split rims from her tires.

We knew it would take a second weekend to finish digging her out, so Todd pulled the hubs to bring back home. We left that Sunday after clearing a trail to pull her out.

Stay tuned for weekend 2, the rescue!


The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me! I decided to leave the standard issue quote below, as it rings true, considering what the blog is about.  Vintage trailers, camping, restoring, rallies and once in awhile crafting will be on the menu here.  Our first project posted will be the restoration of  our 1950 Airfloat. Stay tuned for pictures and updates.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton